(Published in Cayman Airway’s Skies magazine, March/April issue, 2018)
Whether you’re a budding stargazer or a seasoned professional, Cayman offers stargazing opportunities aplenty for those who are willing to take a little time to look up. And thanks to its location just south of the Tropic of Cancer, stargazers can enjoy a view of up to 80 percent of the visible sky.
The Cayman Islands Astronomical Society has been helping budding stargazers in Cayman navigate the night sky for decades.
“Because we are near the equator we can see all of the night sky at some time of the day or year,” says Richard McLeod, president of the Astronomical Society.
McLeod says that during the months of March and April, the constellation Orion, one of the most universally recognised constellations and often referred to as The Hunter, will start to dominate the evening sky, whilst stargazing enthusiasts will also be able to easily spot Jupiter.
“Jupiter is the bright star in the east before dawn,” McLeod explains. “Mars is also only visible in the pre-dawn sky. In November, we had a great view of Mercury and Saturn, but they are now lost in the Sun’s glare, as is Venus.”
With the naked eye, McLeod explains that the International Space Station is visible from Cayman, whilst stargazers often spot meteors and Iridium Flares, brief bright reflections of the Sun from Iridium satellites.
Whilst light pollution is an issue like almost every other country, Cayman does offer a large number of spots that are sufficiently free from artificial light for a fabulous view of the night sky.
McLeod suggests heading to a place near the sea away from lights. Popular spots include beaches at East End, Rum Point and Barkers in West Bay — all ideal to kick off your shoes, lie back on the soft powdery sand and look skywards. For those willing to go the extra mile, heading out to sea will offer breathtaking celestial displays.
Those interested in learning more about the night sky can join the Astronomical Society’s monthly meetings at Pedro St. James in Savannah and at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort’s monthly soiree Dark Night. They are held as close to the new moon as possible to ensure the best view of the sky and society members are always happy to point out areas of interest. Guests can also make use of the society’s high-powered telescope, which offers a more detailed view of distant stars and planets.
Of course, visitors should also keep an eye out for Cayman’s famed Green Flash, a year-round phenomenon that can be seen at sunrise or sunset. The phrase refers to the sudden appearance of a flash of green, caused when the light suddenly changes colour from red/orange to green/blue.